Friday, December 14, 2012

What if?

In the busyness of the Christmas season, I'll be reposting some of my favorite posts and scaling back my original content. Reading Multiply by Francis Chan and gearing up for a Multiply Movement study in the New Year, I'm going to select posts on evangelism this week and Christmas next. This particular post was first published in August 2011.

Much of what passes for doctrine in American Christianity (TM) is based off of a what-if theology. You get these kinds of responses when reaching out to others to spread the Gospel. In an over-correction to be "seeker-sensitive" churches have gone out of their way to try and answer every what-if. But you don't need to. The Bible answers sufficiently and our faith should take care of the rest.

What if there's some tribe in the middle of the desert that never hears of Jesus? Then maybe God is calling you to pack your bags to go there and change that.

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27)

But what if in the middle of the desert there's no water to be baptized? Well, first of all, people can't live where there isn't water. And we can't get too far from it and still live. Did you know that there's a military spec for building a baptistry out of boxes of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and tarp?

"Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go south to the road—the desert road'... As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?'" (Acts 8:26,36)

What if someone is a prisoner of war with no hope of release? Do you think God is that small?

"After [Paul and Silas] had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, 'Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!'

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'

They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family." (Acts 16:23-34)

What if God creates a rock he cannot lift? Ah, the classic canard. So what if he does?

"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear." (Isaiah 59:1)

What if my grandma was the sweetest person I ever knew? Eventually, the what-ifs become personal. But at some point we have to let go of our vested emotional interest and just trust God.

"[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4)

What if Ghandi (or pick your strawman) was a really good person!

"No one is good- except God alone." (Mark 10:18)

What are the what-ifs you struggle with?

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